Can a small archipelago ask for independence from a state that is seeking independence itself? The Shetland Islands could make a difference in the history of ministates.
Could SHETLAND be independent from SCOTLAND?
# Shetland is a small archipelago that is more Norwegian than English
The Shetland Islands are an archipelago made up of 100 islands of which only 16 are inhabited, with a total population of 24,000. These islands are geographically closer to Bergen in Norway than to Edinburgh in Scotland, but are recognized as one of Scotland’s 32 unitary regions and, consequently, part of the United Kingdom.
In fact, until 1472 this territory was under Norwegian domination but was given to Scotland as dowry for the marriage of Margaret of Denmark with James III Stuart: an action that the inhabitants of Shetland have always found unfair.
# The current problem: Life in Shetland is too expensive compared to the rest of Scotland
The Shetland Islands are asking for autonomy from Scotland both for identity and, above all, for economic reasons. Life on these cold islands costs 60% more than in the rest of the state. The inhabitants accuse the government of the backwardness and poverty of this area, and want to take matters into their own hands in order to change things. But could Shetland really be independent?
# Shetland would have the resources to be independent
The archipelago’s economy could actually benefit from this independence. The islands are not only famous for being the land of ponies, sheepdogs and soft wool sheep, but they are also important for fishing, and they even have large oil and gas fields. Lowering the cost of living and enhancing the economy by leveraging its strengths would lead the Shetland Island to effectively break away from Scotland.
# Shetland does not want a real “Sovereign State”
The Shetlanders would like independence from Scotland, but also a “Crown Dependency” status like the Bailiwick of Jersey.
# The Scottish government could follow the independence line for both Shetland and the United Kingdom
Scotland has always struggled for its independence from the United Kingdom and, after the failure of the referendum, it may well propose another one. With a view to just democracy, they should give Shetland the same possibility of deciding by voting.
This request to exercise the right to self-determination through a popular referendum was duly voted with 18 votes in favour and 2 against by the City Council of Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, and formally presented to the Scottish Parliament. An official response is therefore expected from the premier of the Scottish Autonomous Government, Nicola Sturgeon.
The government should comply with the outcome of the referendum or, alternatively, it could suggest a similar model to the Faroe Islands, which are formally linked to Denmark but are free to administer their territory with an autonomous government.
# Shetland’s teaching: ask or you’ll never get it!
What is the lesson that Shetland is teaching to all states or territories that want to be independent? Well, the lesson is that unless you ask for what you want, nobody will ever give you anything.
ANDRA STEFANIA GATU